One of the most difficult places in the world to live in are the slums of Makoko, Nigeria. Popularly dubbed as the “Venice of Africa”, the community is built above water, making the living conditions there harrowing to witness.
Often times children will grow up surrounded by polluted water and are forced to become fishermen as adults.
“A slum is just a place. It does not define the people who live there.” – Tunde Onakoya, Chess In Slums Founder.
“Chess In Slums Africa is our nonprofit (NGO) based out of Nigeria with aims to prove just that: that it is possible to do great things from a small place.
“We proved that Makoko was no exception by taking chess to the community and watching as they all became kings and queens in their own right over our two-week trip,” he said in a recent interview.
Ferdinand Maumo who lives at Makoko, entered the chess lessons during the first week. He has cerebral palsy and deeply inspired the foundation with his quick learning and deep understanding of the game very fast.
Ferdinand turned out to be a chess savant and even went on to win his section in the chess tournament in the final day of the journey.
The NGO visited his home and met his family to tell them what a wonder their son was. His father is a poor fisherman and his mother a petty trader.
They barely make enough money to feed daily, hence the reason why Fredinard and his three siblings do not go to school.
Statehouse; Chess match and gifts
Ferdinand was invited on Tuesday, June 15th, 2021 to the Lagos Statehouse for a chess match against the State Governor, Sanwo Olu, the game was a deeply strategic one that lasted for more than 30 minutes and ended in a stalemate (draw).
It was a keenly contested duel and the governor was no pushover. For a boy who only learnt chess in all its complexities for just two weeks, his genius shined through the entire game and the governor was very impressed by his performance.
Governor Sanwo-Olu gave him ₦1million cash and has placed him and all his siblings on lifelong scholarship support up until their university education.
He also promised to help relocate them from the slums of Makoko to a state-owned apartment in the city to begin a new life.
“For the little boy with dreamy eyes, this is just the beginning of his journey, and I’m glad I got to be a part of his tale.
His gift of chess has made way for him and he got to stand before kings. His life will no doubt never be the same again and I know that someday in the future, he’ll be in a position to pay it forward for other children like him” the foundation said.
With tremendous burdens often comes enormous gifts. Ferdinand has found his own gift through chess and there’s no limit to what he can attain with this.
The real superheroes live in the hearts of children like Ferdinand fighting big battles. His fight is different but he will not have to fight it alone anymore.